Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A thought on Council budgets and social services...


Councils spend a lot of money - £1.3 billion in Bradford's case - but the bit that matters is the "net revenue budget". This is the bit that remains after we take account of fees and charges, remove money that is simply passed through the books (e.g. the money that goes to schools) and adjust for things we do on behalf of government like pay benefits.

In Bradford this figure is £425.9 million of which 38% comes from the Council Tax with the remainder (bar around £6 million taken from reserves) coming from central government grants. Between friends we can call this a 40/60 split. And, assuming the finance director's guesses are more-or-less right, future reductions in grant will mean that this split will be approaching 50/50.

Which brings an interesting observation - the Council's spending on what we used to call social services (children's services and adult social care) is now some £203.3 million. This is around 48% of the net revenue budget. In simple terms, the grants we receive from government pay for social services.

All this rather begs a question - since there is a national debate around adult care and a move from council commissioned block grants to personalised, individual purchase, there is little justification for this being seen as a necessary council service. The private and voluntary sector are more than capable - as is the case with housing - of making this provision. Local government is superfluous except perhaps as a quality regulator (much better and fairer when the council is not also a major provider).

Children's services remain a problem but, given the nature of these services and the limited scope for any meaningful councillor input, there is perhaps an argument - I would need convincing - for child protection and services to be run by a government agency. Service provision - children's homes, adoption and fostering services and so forth - could be commissioned (perhaps from the big children's charities).

If this were the case then nearly 100% of Bradford Council's funding would be raised locally.

It's thought...


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